Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent’s former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
Is Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve Stuck? (Do This!)
A main water shut-off valve is imperative when replacing or repairing plumbing fixtures. Shut-off valves should be functioning correctly in case of an emergency when you should turn off the home’s water supply. If you find that your shut-off valve is stuck, it is vital to fix it immediately.
If your main water shut-off valve is stuck, loosen the shut-off valve by applying grease. After greasing the valve, turn the handle of the valve with a wrench.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Shut-Off Valve?
- How to Loosen a Stuck Shut-Off Valve
- Types of Shut-Off Valves
- Related Questions
What Is a Shut-Off Valve?
A shut-off valve is a valve designed to manage compressed air. People also refer to a shut-off valve as a lock-out valve, cut-off valve, shutdown valve, or ball valve.
People often use shut-off valves for safety-related functions. For example, you can use them in the event of an emergency should equipment fail to work. They also allow for easy servicing of equipment to prevent affecting the rest of the system.
A main water shut-off valve stops the flow of water from the water meter to the entire house. Other water valves can shut off water to individual appliances, fixtures, or faucets.
How to Loosen a Stuck Shut-Off Valve
It’s frustrating if you’re ready to start a plumbing project but realize you can’t turn off the water supply. In addition, shut-off valves can get stuck over time, making it difficult to make repairs. In order to loosen a stuck shut-off valve, follow one of the below approaches.
Tools you will need:
- Penetrating oil
- Rubber mallet
The Traditional Approach to Fix a Stuck Shut-Off Valve
The traditional approach to loosen a stuck shut-off valve is the grease-and-wrench approach. First, try turning the main water shut-off valve, then spray the stuck valve with penetrating oil. Sold in most home improvement stores, penetrating oil has a low viscosity, allowing it to penetrate tight spaces.
After you’ve sprayed the valve, grip the valve with a wrench. Next, use a rubber mallet or hammer to tap gently on the handle. Many older plumbing fixtures can break easily, so make sure you’re careful when tapping the handle.
Alternate Approach for Fixing a Stuck Shut-Off Valve
If the traditional approach does not work and the shut-off valve remains stuck, try an alternate approach. First, try heating the valve with a hairdryer. Then spray the valve with the penetrating oil and try turning the valve again with the wrench.
Continue repeating the process to loosen the stuck valve.
Types of Shut-Off Valves
Your home’s plumbing system has various shut-off valves found at different points along the water pipes. These valves allow you to turn off the water during emergencies or when you need to make repairs.
Water valves can range from the main water valve found near the water meter to small, individual fixture shut-off valves. Fixture shut-off valves mark the transition from water supply lines to supply tubes that deliver water to faucets. Some valves are large, while others are small.
Valves can operate in two ways. A valve can have an internal part that rotates to open or block the flow of water. Valves can also have a stem with a washer that seals the flow of water.
Here are seven types of water shut-off valves.
A ball valve is a large, metal valve that typically features a lever handle. This is the most common type of valve on main water pipes. The ball valve features a design that allows you to turn it on and off quickly.
The valve opens and closes completely by turning the lever handle ¼ of a turn. This type of valve is often seen as the main water shut-off valve of the home. You can recognize the ball valve because the body of the valve below the handle has a thicker middle section.
In the middle section is where the ball fits inside of the valve. The internal ball has a hole through the middle of it. When the valve is open, the hole aligns with the direction of the water pipe, allowing the water to flow.
When the handle is closed, the ball rotates 90 degrees, blocking the hole in the middle of the ball.
A gate valve describes the process by which the valve opens and closes. To turn a gate valve on or off, you turn a circular handle to raise or lower a metal gate inside the inner valve. When the valve is off, the gate blocks the flow of water.
Like the ball valve, the gate valve completely opens or completely shuts off the water flow. Similar to the ball valve, the gate valve is large and metal.
You don’t often find gate valves in residential plumbing. Gate valves are more common in industrial applications. However, gate valves are sometimes found controlling the main water pipe or found on the pipe leading to the boiler.
Globe valves resemble ball valves with a bulbous, metal body. However, a globe valve is designed to allow different levels of water flow. Inside of the valve, there is a baffle with a water flow port running through it.
The handle of the globe valve operates a plunger that has a washer or seal on the bottom. As the handle closes the valve, the plunger moves down against the water flow port and partially closes it off. When the handle is in operation, you can feel the plunger tighten inside the valve.
You use a globe valve where you need irregular control of the water flow. This type of valve controls pipes that lead outdoors to water spigots. You may also find them when a branch of the plumbing line has a shut-off valve.
Angled Fixture Shut-Off Valve
Individual fixtures should all have an individual shut-off valve that controls water to only those fixtures. This allows you to shut off water for small repairs or replacements without interrupting water flow to other areas. Angled fixture shut-off valves are often small, silver-colored valves with an oval handle and ribbed edges.
Fixture shut-off valves are available in several styles, but the most common are compression fittings that slip over the pipe. There are also grip-fit types that slide onto the end of the water pipe and seal by an inner gasket.
You use angled fixture shut-off valves when a water pipe comes out of the wall then needs to angle upward. The valve feeds any supply tubes running to tailpieces on a sink faucet or toilet valve. You most likely have many angled fixture shut-off valves in your home.
Straight Fixture Shut-Off Valves
A straight fixture shut-off valve is similar to the angled fixture shut-off valve. They operate in the same way, but you should use them where the water can run straight to the fixture. For example, you often use them where a water pipe comes out of the floor rather than the wall.
A stop-and-waste valve is a key irrigation fitting and keeps the sprinkler lines from freezing in the winter. You turn the stop-and-waste valve on and off with a meter key. When in the off position, the port automatically drains any water in the line.
Building codes in many areas no longer allow needle valves, but your home may have one or more. People also refer to needle valves as saddle valves. These valves are typically used to connect a water supply tube to a refrigerator, water filter, or other appliances.
Needle valves work by clamping onto a water pipe, then force a hollow needle into the pipe to tap the water. Next, a flexible copper or plastic supply tube connects to the fitting on the valve. This then brings water to the appliance.
Because these are not very dependable valves, most codes require the connection to be a standard fixture shut-off valve.
How do I shut off my main water valve?
To shut off the main water valve, locate the water meter. You’ll usually find it attached to an exterior wall of the house, or in a colder climate, the basement. Then, look for valves attached to the water meter.
If the meter is outdoors, follow the pipe that extends from the meter to the house. If there is no valve anywhere along the waterline, it may be in the basement. Turn the valve clockwise to close it and shut off the water.
Test the water flow by turning on a faucet in the house. Water should drain from the pipe, then the flow should stop. If the water doesn’t stop, you’ve turned off the wrong valve, and you will have to locate the correct valve.
What’s the average cost to replace the main water valve?
Valves are usually outside of your home or in the basement, but they’re easy to access and replace. Replacing the main water shut-off valve can cost between $250 to $1,000. Costs should stay low for this replacement unless the valve is hard to access or there is corrosion.
If you need to replace the handle of the main water shut-off valve, it will cost between $150 to $750. However, if the handle screws into position, the labor costs should be low. If the handle has a different design, it can cost more and require more work than others.
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